Posted by: drspartalis | 12/05/2009

Has the Serve Failed Us?

Or Have We Failed the Serve?

That is the question today’s top players should be asking themselves. Two weeks in Rome, Rafael Nadal was in the final against Novak Djokovic. At 5-4 Rafa was serving for the first set and got broken. Had he not fought back from 5-6 down to take the first set to a tie break and win that tie break, a lot more tennis fans would be asking themselves my initial question. Rafa is a true champion with enough grit and determination to triumph out of tight moments in matches. He demonstrated this yet again on that Sunday to win his 4th Rome Masters title.

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of Getty Images

Courtesy of the AFP/Getty

Courtesy of the AFP/Getty

More and more these days we see in the most inopportune of times the top players getting their serves broken. Just one week before the Rome final, Rafa was in the final in Barcelona against David Ferrer. Rafa was broken three times as the two traded breaks of serve in the first four games of the second set. It wasn’t pretty but our champion came through with yet another title.

Posted by: drspartalis | 03/03/2009

The Serve: A Lost Art

In the not so distant past of our beloved sport there was a tradition in the men’s game that is utterly lacking today. Holding serve. For some years now, I see more and more breaks of serve at the most inopportune of moments in the biggest matches. Certainly racquet technology is a factor in improved returning. But that’s only an equalizer to speed and power. Today’s servers are just rifling the ball to their opponent. The precision, accuracy, and consistency of the previous era is no more. Sampras, Becker, Ivanisevic, and Philipousis to name a few were hitting serves just as hard if not harder than most of today’s top talent. With the exception of the last name in my list, their serves were deadly accurate. They regularly blew opponents off the court with bombardments of aces: pin-point accurate, line-clipping surgery at 120-140mph. The serve was once the mark of an elite professional and a source of pride in the men’s game. Today the serve has become a mere formality, a way of initiating the point to yet another baseline rally. Rafael Nadal has certainly taken the game to new heights of unmatched ground stroke spin, impossible angles, and gritty athleticism. But Rafa please do us fans, connoisseurs, and your own knees a giant favor and improve your service motion. The tennis world loves you, and we want to see you achieve the level of greatness you deserve. A first serve motion that is more powerful, flatter, and catapults your body forward into the court is essential. Mas vale tarde que nunca. Vamos!

Posted by: drspartalis | 23/02/2009

Enduring the Season

Alright, tennis fanatics, let’s get on to the latest news of our beloved sport. I recently saw the final of the Rotterdam tournament between Nadal and Murray. The level of play for the first two sets was outstanding. Then in the deciding set, Nadal succumbed to injury and lost 6-0. If my favorite comedian Jerry Seinfeld were to make a remark about the match he’d characteristically say, “that’s a shame.” And I’d have to agree. But it’s no laughing matter. It’s a terrible shame when a final, a championship match is decided by an injury. As I’ve felt for some time, the sport is becoming more and more of a season-long iron-man test of endurance. The year-round season scheduling does not allow for the top players to recuperate between tournaments. They accumulate injuries and eventually collapse in the final set of the tournament.

Posted by: drspartalis | 18/02/2009

An Introduction

Tennis has been a significant part of my life since I was a child growing up on the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus.  The mild Mediterranean climate allows for year-round outdoor play.  The predominant court surface type on the island is red clay.  As junior players in the 1960’s, my friends and I trained together at the Larnaca Tennis Club and competed in tournaments throughout the island, including my favorite the Trodos Open held annually near the highest altitude of the island in the Trodos Mountains.  The highlight of my young playing days was a visit by one of the All-time greatest players, The Rocket Rod Laver.  The Rocket spent a day at the Larnaca Tennis Club to give a junior clinic.  My friends and I had a chance to speak to, exchange ground strokes with, and shake the hand of the great champion. 

Following the birth of my two sons in New York, I soon found myself getting back into the sport of my youth as a hitting partner, chauffeur, and sports injury doctor.  Without any influence from me, my eldest took a great liking to the sport and the disciple of training and competition from the age of six.  Soon thereafter both my boys were training with coaches and playing in local tournaments in the New York area during the school year and in Cyprus through the summer months.  Their love for the sport has never waned and they keep me up-to-date with the latest developments and newest players.

Let’s open the discussion with a comparison of today’s top players with those of previous eras. 

The marked athleticism of today’s top players together with the significant advancements in racket technology give evidence to a shift in the spirit of the sport away from a demonstration of high-level skill, precision, and strategy and towards more of a test of strength and endurance.  This is a theme that I will return to regularly, and I encourage you to present your ideas on the sport as well!

Posted by: drspartalis | 12/02/2009

My Goals for This Blog

The purpose of this blog is distinct from my other blog.  Although I am a physician by trade (a Vascular Surgeon specifically), here I am hoping to share some of my thoughts on a separate passion of mine: tennis.  I played avidly in my youth and still enjoy the game tremendously.  So given the excitement surrounding tennis these days (thanks to the drama of each Nadal-Federer encounter), I hope to use this platform to inspire some discussions on the state of the game, the history of the game and I may even share my thoughts on “Who is the Greatest Ever.”  So please feel free to comment and leave your opinions as we enter the great wide world of tennis!